The Interior Ministry has announced plans to reform its network of information offices in foreign countries, as part of the government's attempts to fight on illegal immigration. Existing offices will concentrate on explaining on how migrants can work legally in the Czech Republic. Rob Cameron has more.
The Czech Interior Ministry - using money from the government's Foreign Development Co-operation fund - has run several information centres, mostly in Eastern Europe, for some time. But the Interior Ministry announced this week that from now on the centres will concentrate chiefly on explaining how people looking to work in the Czech Republic can do so legally, part of the government's ongoing battle against illegal immigration.
Interior Ministry asylum and immigration specialist Frantisek Bublan - no relation to the Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan - told Radio Prague that existing information centres in such places as Ukraine, Moldava and Armenia would follow the example of the centre in Georgia, which he recently had the opportunity to visit.
"The principle of the centre is not to dissuade anyone from travelling to the Czech Republic. The centres work by providing all the legal information someone needs to get to the Czech Republic legally, work here legally, pay tax here, and then return legally to Georgia."
The centres work by placing adverts in local newspapers and on TV, with a free phone number. Those interested in working in the Czech Republic are asked about their qualifications and current employment and then given the necessary forms to fill in. The approach is meant to head off illegal immigrants before they leave home. Frantisek Bublan says he believes the scheme has been a success, although the extent of that success is hard to judge.
"There has been a change in the number of people who try and enter the Czech Republic illegally or apply for asylum here. We've noticed that the number is falling, although obviously it's not just thanks to this project. There are lots more factors involved."
The ministry is also planning a major change in its approach to illegal immigrants already working in the country. Under the strategy unveiled this week, the government plans to treat illegal workers as victims of organised crime, rather than as criminals.
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